Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Atheists and Humanists Need to Get Involved in Local Politics

What's wrong with this picture? Everything.
Right now, if you live in the United States, there's an election campaign of real importance going on somewhere near you that needs help. Neither candidate in the race is perfect, they are, after all both human beings, but chances are that one candidate is at least slightly better than the other on issues like reproductive rights, LGBTQ equality and the separation of church and state. And I can tell you right now, that that candidacy needs your help.

They need people to knock on doors and work on phone banks. The need people to write letters to the local print media and to show up at public appearances to ask the right questions of their opponents. These campaigns need you because the other side, the side that opposes women's rights and marriage equality, the side that wants to get prayer back into public schools and continue tax breaks for churches, is getting all the help they need. 

The other side is organized and monolithic. They recruit volunteers out of churches and through well funded political action committees. These people are plugged in politically and they don't have the attitude that it doesn't matter who you vote for and that the game is rigged and that politics doesn't matter, because these are the people who are rigging the game and convincing you of these ideas. The Tea Party, to cite one recent example, didn't come to power because they eschewed politics, they came to power because they played politics.

I am writing this for the atheists, the Humanists, the skeptics and the Atheist+ ers out there: Get involved. Find a local campaign and add your voice and your effort to get your candidate elected. If there's nothing happening in your district, city or town, look outside. It doesn't matter how small the race is. It doesn't even matter if you lose, (though winning is so much better.) What matters is that you have added your voice to the campaign and that the campaign, through your efforts, has addressed issues that reflect the values of the non-theistic community.

When you volunteer, let them know why you are volunteering and let them know that you are an atheist, or a Humanist or whatever it is that you identify yourself as.  They may ask you, for political reasons, to stay away from their campaign. My suggestion is: Don't give up. Find another campaign. Feeling bad because someone has bowed to public prejudice isn't going to change the world. Gaining political power for the causes we believe in will.

Political power is never going to be offered to us. If non-believers want to be taken seriously we need to get out there and start supporting candidates. And if there are no candidates we can support then we have to get out there and recruit candidates, or better yet, BE candidates ourselves.

Here in Rhode Island, I'm dedicating my time to Gene Dyszlewski, running for Rhode Island State Senate in Cranston, Rhode Island. Gene supports reproductive freedom, supports marriage equality, and supports separation of church and state. His opponent, Frank Lombardi, is on record saying that he opposes all three of these things, because he can't separate his Catholicism from his politics.

Look around and find a candidate who needs your help. Drag your non-believing friends out there with you. Make a difference not just in the local race and on local issues, but in the way people perceive the non-theistic community. Right now we are a cranky, unknown minority. Tomorrow we might be a political constituency worth pandering to.

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